It's not easy for me to talk about the Mormon Church (aka "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints," aka the LDS Church) without coming across as angry. But I wanted to offer some additional information about the article Alex posted last week regarding the Mormon Church's position on homosexuality.
First off, I want to apologize for using the term "homosexuality," because I find it dehumanizing and offensive. But seeing as this is the term used in the majority of the Church's literature, I will be commenting on that.
Secondly, I want to apologize for not being able to remain "objective." But after being raised in the Mormon Church, it's really hard for me not to get pissed off about the Church's teachings in regards to sexual orientation.
The Mormon Church has received a lot of publicity lately, for good or for bad, because of two people: Mitt Romney and Warren Jeffs. Romney, of course, is the dude running for the Republican presidential nomination. And Jeffs is the former leader of a fundamentalist branch of the LDS Church who was convicted earlier this year of rape as an accomplice after he forced a fourteen year old girl to marry her nineteen year old cousin. If you believe a lot of the media's coverage of the issue, Mormons are rare creatures who only live in Utah, despite the fact that the LDS Church is a multi-billion dollar institution with over 15 million members worldwide.
Last week, Alex quoted an article that implied that the Mormon Church has recently softened its position on homosexuality. However, the Church still advocates that homosexuality is a mental illness that can be controlled and that church members should "love the sinner and hate the sin."
In a recent statement on the Church's website, Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder Lance B. Wickham, both senior figures in the Church's hierarchy, issued a 17-page interview regarding "same-gender attraction." In response to a question about how parents should react if their child tells them that he is gay (the article never addresses lesbians, bisexuals, or transgender children), Elder Oaks responds:
The distinction between feelings or inclinations on the one hand, and behavior on the other hand, is very clear. It's no sin to have inclinations that if yielded to would produce behavior that would be a transgression. The sin is in yielding to temptation . . . Homosexuality . . . is not a noun that describes a condition. It's an adjective that describes feelings or behavior.
Oaks, who is a lawyer by training, not a psychologist or medical doctor, goes onto say that:
Homosexual feelings are controllable. Perhaps there is an inclination or susceptibility to such feelings that is a reality for some and not a reality for others. But out of such susceptibilities come feelings, and feelings are controllable. If we cater to the feelings, they increase the power of the temptation. If we yield to the temptation, we have committed sinful behavior. That pattern is the same for a person that covets someone else's property and has a strong temptation to steal. It's the same for a person that develops a taste for alcohol. It's the same for a person that is born with a 'short fuse,' as we would say of a susceptibility to anger. If they let that susceptibility remain uncontrolled, it becomes a feeling of anger, and a feeling of anger can yield to behavior that is sinful and illegal. . . feelings can be controlled and behavior can be controlled. The line of sin is between the feelings and the behavior.
Perhaps the LDS Church was too busy dealing with the controversy of not allowing African Americans to hold the priesthood to notice that the American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from the DSM in 1974. I don't know. But the last time I checked, this was still the case.
Playing upon old stereotypes that same-sex relationships are unfulfilling and incapable of bringing people joy, Oaks even has the balls to say:
There is no fullness of joy in the next life without a family unit, including a husband, a wife, and posterity. Further, men are that they might have joy. In the eternal perspective, same-gender activity will only bring sorrow and grief and the loss of eternal opportunities.
The worst quote, however, from this tome comes from Elder Wickman, who claims:
Gratefully, the answer is that same-gender attraction did not exist in the pre-earth life and neither will it exist in the next life. It is a circumstance that for whatever reason or reasons seems to apply right now in mortality, in this nano-second of our eternal existence.
The good news for somebody who is struggling with same-gender attraction is this: 1) It is that 'I'm not stuck with it forever.' It's just now. Admittedly, for each one of us, it's hard to look beyond the 'now' sometimes. But nonetheless, if you see mortality as now, it's only during this season.
In order to understand this quote, you might need a little primer in Mormon Doctrine 101. Mormons believe that we all existed in a spiritual realm called the "pre-existence" before we came to Earth and received our physical bodies. This life is a test to see if we will follow Heavenly Father's commandments, the most important one being that we have to get married in the Mormon Temple in order to get back into heaven (more on this later). After we die, we return to heaven and are judged according to how we lived our lives. The righteous become gods themselves and are able to create planets and populate them with their own spirit children for all eternity. (If you're scratching your head to figure that one out, don't worry... that's a normal reaction.)
By arguing that there are no gay people in the pre-existence or in the "hereafter," Wickman is arguing that God doesn't create gay people. (I think you can do the math to figure out how God feels about transgender people in this equation.) Growing up in that kind of atmosphere, I felt suicidal and totally alone. I thought that no one else could possibly feel like me and I was doomed to a life of unhappiness. I was never going to get into heaven, no matter how hard I tried. And I didn't really see a point in living if that was the case. You couldn't get into heaven if you committed suicide. But since I wasn't going there anyway, I didn't have much to lose. I don't think I'm the only lonely lesbian growing up in a Mormon household who ever felt that way.
Getting back to Mormon dogma... I know some LGBTQ Mormons and former Mormons (or homo Momos, as I like to call them) hold out hope that the Church will change its position and eventually recognize same-sex unions. After all, it wasn't too long ago that Blacks couldn't hold the priesthood. But I think it's foolishly naïve to think the Church is ever going to change its tune. Why?
Well, for starters, temple marriage is the guiding metaphor for everything else that happens in the Church. As I mentioned earlier, you can't get into the highest level of heaven without getting married in the temple. Here's what Wickman says to anyone who thinks that the Church might budge an inch on the issue:
For openers, marriage is neither a matter of politics, nor is it a matter of social policy. Marriage is defined by the Lord Himself. It's the one institution that is ceremoniously performed by priesthood authority in the temple [and] transcends this world. It is of such profound importance... such a core doctrine of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, of the very purpose of the creation of this earth. One hardly can get past the first page of Genesis without seeing that very clearly. It is not an institution to be tampered with by mankind, and certainly not to be tampered with by those who are doing so simply for their own purposes. There is no such thing in the Lord's eyes as something called same-gender marriage. Homosexual behavior is and will always remain before the Lord an abominable sin. Calling it something else by virtue of some political definition does not change that reality.
If the definition of marriage is changed to allow anyone to get into heaven, then WTF is the point of having a Church with a hierarchy and handing over 10% of your income to the Church? Heaven has to be an exclusive party if it's going to be heaven. We can't just let in any sort of riff raff.
But to get back to the point of how the Church counsels parents to treat their children who refuse to give up the "homosexual lifestyle" (which I assume would include assless chaps and lots of Madonna), Oaks says:
That's a decision that needs to be made individually by the person responsible, calling upon the Lord for inspiration. I can imagine that in most circumstances the parents would say, 'Please don't do that. Don't put us into that position.' Surely if there are children in the home who would be influenced by this example, the answer would likely be that. There would also be other factors that would make that the likely answer.
I can also imagine some circumstances in which it might be possible to say, 'Yes, come, but don't expect to stay overnight. Don't expect to be a lengthy house guest. Don't expect us to take you out and introduce you to our friends, or to deal with you in a public situation that would imply our approval of your "partnership."
I've gotta say, I'm pretty lucky. Seven years ago, I had a mother who pretty much towed the party line. When I came out, I was kicked out of the house and I didn't speak to my mom for almost two years. Fast forward to last Thanksgiving. My mom came to visit me in Long Beach and actually asked if she could come to the Gay & Lesbian Center with me to meet my youth group. The kids were stunned when I introduced them to my mother. (So was I.) This year, my mom is sporting not one, but two, rainbow wind chimes on her front porch. In the last seven years, I've gone from having no mother to gaining a PFLAG mom. It's taken a lot of therapy and hard work on both our parts to get here. But it's been worth it.
Sadly, the Church doesn't think so. My mom was told last week that she's no longer eligible to attend the Temple because she refuses to tow the party line anymore in regards to her lesbian daughter. My mom's a good lady. In every other area of Church doctrine, she gets an A+. She gives 10% of her income to the Church. She doesn't watch rated-R movies and she doesn't drink caffeine. And yet, because of me, she's being told that she's unworthy. It's unfair that she has to pay for my so-called "sins."
I'm sorry to go off on a diatribe about this. But for anyone who's unfamiliar with Mormon culture, I didn't think it was an accurate representation of the Church to say that LDS leaders are getting more progressive on this issue, because they're not.
Also, please don't take this to be a dig on all Mormons. I think most Mormons are genuinely good people who try to do right by their families and be good to their neighbors. It's really unfortunate, however, that the Church's leadership can't accept that Father/Mother God (or Diana, Allah, Buddha, Krishna, or whoever/whatever you worship) could possible have created LGBTQ folks for a purpose. I might post my thoughts about that some other time. But for now, I'll just say, "Jah loves you too, bitches," and leave it at that.